John Ruskin, H.R.W.S. (London 1819-1900)
John Ruskin, H.R.W.S. (London 1819-1900)

Apse at the east-end of the Cathedral of San Martino, Lucca, Italy

John Ruskin, H.R.W.S. (London 1819-1900)
Apse at the east-end of the Cathedral of San Martino, Lucca, Italy
with indistinct date and inscription '15 Lucca, Apse of Church./by John Ruskin (1882)/...R.W.S. 5A Pall Mall East in 1901./...Alice Storr. from Arthur and Joan Ruskin Severn.' (on a label attached to the backboard)
pencil and bodycolour on buff paper
18 7/8 x 13 in. (48 x 33 cm.)
By descent from the artist to his cousin Joan Ruskin Severn, and given by her and Arthur Severn to Alice Storr.
Anonymous sale; Dreweatt Neate, Newbury, 20 October 2010, lot 14, where purchased by the present owner.
E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn (ed.), The Works of John Ruskin, London, 1912, vol. 38, p. 263, no. 1027.
London, Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours, Ruskin Exhibition, 1901, no. 115.
Sale room notice
Please note the apse depicted in the present watercolour is at the east end of the Church of San Michele in Foro, Lucca, and not as stated in the catalogue entry.

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Lot Essay

Ruskin made his last visit to Tuscany in 1882 with his student William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932), to investigate the architecture of Pisa and Lucca to be translated into designs for a new St George's Museum at Bewdley, Worcestershire. Ruskin settled into a routine of drawing in the 'sunny streets-under walls a thousand years old' (J. Clegg and P. Tucker, Ruskin and Tuscany, Ruskin Gallery, exhibition catalogue, 1993, p. 120).

Ruskin and Collingwood stayed in Lucca from 30 September to 1 November with a week away in Florence, where the American artist H.R. Newman introduced Ruskin to Francesca Alexandra, whose books Ruskin was later to publish. They were greeted in Lucca with the news of the death in Venice of Ruskin's copyist-protégé J.W. Bunney. Ruskin had not been feeling well in Florence, but on his return to Lucca on 11 October he wrote in his diary, 'got gradually better [and] made a good sketch of St Michael here in afternoon'. Writing of this Italian tour in his biography of Ruskin, Collingwood noted 'He painted hard himself and never did better work in his life'.

The Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca was consecrated in 1070 by Pope Alexander II on the arrival of the miraculous Volto Santo (Holy Face) of Lucca, a large wooden crucifix believed to have been carved by Nicodemus, the biblical figure who helped Joseph of Arimathea remove Christ's body from the Cross.

There are drawings of Lucca by Ruskin at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Ruskin Museum, Coniston and Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal.

We are grateful to Stephen Wildman at the Ruskin Library and Jim Dearden for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.

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